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dinsdag 25 februari 2014

The judgement of Cambyses

When Collin and Brendan (yep, I’m on a first name basis!) are visiting the museum, Collin is looking at some really gross paintings.

Yeah, those Flemish Primitives had some real funky imagination! But, their paintings are mostly based on stories from the Bible or with a certain message in it. Occasionally they painted a family portrait like this one of Jan van Eyck (Arnolfini and his bride).
Jan van Eyck - Arnolfini and his bride
But, in the movie you can briefly see a few details of the painting “The judgement of Cambyses”, made by Gerard David, another Flemish Primitive.
If you visit the Groeningemuseum in Bruges, you can’t miss this work! It’s really a big diptych (2 pieces) of 202 x 349.5 cm (80 x 137.6 inch) and you see it when you enter the first hall dedicated to the Flemish Primitives.
It tells the old Persian story of Sisamnes, a judge who accepted a bribe and delivered an unjust verdict. When King Cambyses heard about this, he had the judge arrested and skinned alive as punishment.
The painting "Judgement of Cambyses"
On the left panel you can see the moment of arresting the judge, but take a look at the top left corner of the panel, you see the judge accepting money! So the painting is to be read as a comic book!
The right panel shows how Sisamnes is being skinned alive (yep, they were really cruel in those days) as punishment. And again, take a look at the top right corner of that panel. There you see a young man sitting on a type of thrown. That’s Otanes, Sisamnes’ son, sitting in the chair of his father but which is draped with the skin of his father. To remind him what happens when you are corrupt…

The work was commissioned in 1487/1488 by the authorities of Bruges. This is what is called a “righteousness scene”. Such scenes were often painted by Flemish Primitives. And those paintings were put on display in courthouses. To remind the aldermen and judges they are not untouchable!

But I can understand why the character of Collin was attracted to this work.